Tag Archives: Evolution

Research from 1979 Refutes Current Dog Food Pyramid

Puppy Selfie 2

There is a common notion that dogs are omnivores. And, the bottom line is that they are omnivores. Of course that’s because they have no choice but to eat what we feed them. This is typically processed kibble containing at least 30% carbohydrates.

Think about this; if we captured all the polar bears in the world and started feeding them nothing but bananas, we could say that all polar bears are bananavores. Of course that is not the best diet for them. They naturally eat what is best for them from their normal environment.

Since dogs have been removed from their natural environment, how can we tell what they were meant to eat? What does their genetics dictate is best for them to eat for optimal health? What does science tell us?

This study, published in the Journal of the American Animal Hospital Association in 1979 starts by stating the purpose of the research. “A good deal of disagreement exists within the veterinary profession about the proper diet for dogs… We conducted a review of the available wildlife literature, with the intent that the information gathered concerning food selection among feral carnivores might influence future considerations regarding the feeding of domestic carnivores…”  Unfortunately, today there is little disagreement among veterinary nutritionists – dogs are omnivores they say.

The researchers in this study surveyed the stomach contents of the coyote, fox, wolf, bobcat, cougar, and lynx. That’s an interesting approach to the mystery. But, is it valid? Why would they think that dogs should eat like wild carnivores? What do they have in common? The researchers offer this explanation.

“Anatomically, our domestic breeds of dogs possess gastrointestinal systems similar to those of the feral carnivores studied. They share in common strong carnassial teeth, simple stomachs of great digestive capability, thickly muscled esophagus, stomach and intestine, residual cecae, and simple non-sacculated colons.”

In other words, the fact that the domestic dog’s digestive tract is very similar to that of the wild animals studied indicates they evolved to eat similar diets. Anatomy dictates function. Dogs appear to be genetically programmed to eat like a wild carnivore. I am not saying that dogs are identical to wolves (I would not want one of those in bed with me). However their digestive anatomy indicates that they are adapted to eat similar diets.

So, what did the researchers conclude that dogs should eat? “From these many studies into the food habits of feral carnivores, it may be concluded that the staple diet of carnivores living in a natural setting includes other animals, carrion, and occasionally fruits and grasses… carnivores in their natural environments consume diets high in animal protein, bulk, and roughage (not plant fiber, but indigestible or poorly digestible parts of animal carcasses…) and low in carbohydrates, and caloric density.”

I am not proposing that we feed our pets carrion (dead and decayed animals). But notice that the diets that appear to be best for our dogs are high in animal protein and low in carbohydrates. This is basically the opposite of what dogs foods offer. We need to turn the current, dog food pyramid upside down.

Have you turned the dog food pyramid upside down?

5 Steps to a Healthy Pet

Painted pup

I would like to start 2016 by keeping it simple. Over the years I’ve written about research and my own experience that informs my views on pet health care. I’ve been working in the veterinary field for over 30 years with more than 20 years of holistic/integrative practice. I would like to sum it up with 4 simple ideas that I think will give every pet the best chance for a long, healthy life.

  1. DIET – Nutrition is the basis for health. We simply cannot expect any animal to be healthy if they are not provided the raw materials needed to build a healthy body. Our pets evolved eating raw food. They retain the genetic programming for diets that are high in protein and low in carbs (the opposite profile of conventional diets). The high-heat processing of commercial pet foods destroys micronutrients and creates carcinogens. Pets benefit from a species-appropriate, balanced, raw diet.
  2. Healthy Weight – Speaking of diet, keeping your pet at a healthy weight will help him live a longer life with fewer chronic disease issues like arthritis. You should be able to feel your pet’s ribs along the side of the body and there should be a narrowing at the waist.
  3. VACCINES – Wile I am not against all vaccines I have found that the mainstream veterinary community tends to over-do it. Every pet does not need every vaccine every year. It is important to be sure your pet has immunity to distemper and parvo. Blood titers can be done to see if a pet needs the vaccine. Giving more vaccines than are needed does not increase immunity; it just screws up the immune system. The rabies vaccine is mandated by law and in my experience a healthy animal can handle a vaccine every 3 years. Other vaccines such as leptospirosis, lyme, and bordetella should be given on an as needed basis. DO NOT give more than one vaccine at a time.
  4. MEDICAL INTERVENTIONSWhenever possible, natural/holistic therapies such as herbs, supplements, acupuncture, chiropractic, and homeopathy should be used over conventional medications. My main concern with Western medicine is that there are often side effects from such medicines that can be avoided by using more natural treatments.
  5. SPAY/NEUTER – Recent research shows that sterilizing a pet before it is fully mature causes changes in bone growth. These alterations throw off the biomechanics of the joints and predispose the pet to hip dysplasia and cruciate ligament rupture. Spaying and neutering at any age appears to promote cancer. (Find research on this here) Depending on a pet caregiver’s lifestyle and tolerances and the pet’s behavior, it appears that it is best to hold off on spaying and neutering any pet until it is 2-3 years old. Consider Zeutering male dogs.

There you have it, pet health in a nutshell: feed raw, limit vaccines, go holistic, delay spay/neuter.

What have you found the most helpful for your pets?

Are You Feeding an “Unconventional Diet”?

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On February 22, I gave a day of lectures on traditional Chinese veterinary medicine and food therapy at the Midwest Veterinary Conference in Columbus, Ohio. While I was at the conference I went to a lecture on “Unconventional Diets” given by one of the nutritionists at the OSU vet school. The term unconventional diets refers to everything weird – you know – anything that isn’t processed foods (basically homemade or raw).

You see, those in the conventional nutrition arena really do not understand those of us who think that there is something better than processed pet foods. It was not stated in this lecture, but another article by veterinary nutritionist explained away the trend toward unconventional diets by saying it’s a fad and that those who choose such diets have a “psychological need” to care for their pets this way. (Yes, that was the actual term used). In other words, we’re all psychos!

This OSU nutritionist was not quite that condescending, but she gave the typical, anti-raw, conventional lecture. Nothing I didn’t expect. Even though I disagreed with her message, I know how to behave at a lecture and just took in her point of view. I think we can all benefit from stepping outside the echo-chamber of our own food tribe.

This nutritionist did not see the point of feed dogs like wolves since wolves do not live long and we want our pets to live into old age. Of course wolves typically do not live into old age. Their habitats are being ravaged by man, they face starvation, and they are susceptible to drought and weather extremes. In their unperturbed ecosystems, they do not die of nutrient deficiencies or toxicities. Under the pampered environments of our pets, wolves would live long lives – as long as they continued their wild diets. That’s how Zoos feed them.

It has always amazed me that scientists who believe in evolution can think that an animal would evolve eating a diet that is anything less than ideal. I have heard them say that evolution only selects for animals until they breed and pass on their genes.  However, the more genes an animal passes on, the more its traits are spread to future generations. That means, the longer an animal reproduces, the more fit it is. Evolution favors animals that are healthy enough to reproduce for a long time.

Our pets evolved eating raw, low-carb food. There has not been enough time, from an evolutionary standpoint, for them to adapt adequately to processed diets. That’s why we have so much cancer and chronic disease in our pets. You simply cannot improve on Mother Nature.

By the way, instead of arguing with the nutritionist, I invited her to a lecture on raw pet food I’m giving for the OSU Vet Student Holistic Club next month. I hope she joins us for a walk on the wild side.

Are you a psycho too?